Ewa Author Paints Family Mo’olelos

Wednesday - October 29, 2008

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Matthew Kaopio lets his readers become part of his ohana in the recently released Hawaiian Family Album.

“This book was originally intended for my nieces and nephews so they could be acquainted with family members long past and the stories my cousins and I grew up with,” the Ewa Beach resident said. “I try to cater to all ages, since even grownups like a good story once in awhile.”

In his third book, the mouth-brush painter recounts 11 stories from his grandmother, Pearl Leilani White, who refused to tell a young Kaopio such tales for fear it was “not the Christian way.“White would later let her grandson into her story-filled world after her short-term memory began declining because of Alzheimer’s disease.

Each story goes back and forth between Kaopio’s visits with his grandmother in the hospital, and her experiences growing up with her Aunt Polly and Grandfather Sam “Naka’ahiki” Kane, highlighting the importance of elders and the knowledge they pass on to future generations.

“They possess a great wealth of knowledge that can increase our understanding of who we are,” Kaopio said.“Currently in America, there is a fear of aging where the emphasis is on youth and vitality. But by respecting the perspective of our elders, we gain greater appreciation for the huge strides they’ve made in shaping our world today.”

Kaopio also includes a lot of Hawaiian vocabulary in the text, without any English translations. “Hawaiian language was a major part of my grandmother’s upbringing, which differentiated her from the other siblings (who spoke American English in her parents’ household).

“I wanted the readers to experience the quality of their words and allow for comprehension through actions. It would have been too cumbersome to include translations, and real life is not viewed with subtitles.”

The 48-page book can be purchased for $13.95 at Barnes & Noble, Borders, University of Hawaii Bookstore, Native Books and Bookends. And to make your copy extra special, Kaopio will autograph copies of Hawaiian Family Album from 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 7 during the Daughters of Hawaii Book Sale at Queen Emma Summer Palace. For more information, visit http://www.mutualpublishing.com or call 732-1709.

Kaopio began his mouth-painting career in 1994 when a diving accident left him as a quadriplegic. Despite the odds, he has been successful in both his writing and painting careers.

“I grew up loving illustrated children’s books, and I wanted to showcase my artwork along with the storytelling,” he explains.

In March 2004, Kaopio was accepted into the for-profit Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. He also has a BA in Hawaiian/Pacific studies as well as an MA in Pacific Island studies.

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